There’s been a little change around here this week. Nothing earth-shattering. Just a trip to the hairdresser for me. I hadn’t been in months and felt in need of some neatening up. The Spouse and the kids went to the library, and I popped into the local salon. We all need a new perspective sometimes, right?
Now I don’t know if the haircut upset things for Plum or if we’d be having a difficult run of days anyway. I do know that he’s been grumpy since Saturday. He’s developed a habit of telling me that I’m not being “hospitable.” At top volume. While pulling anything he can reach crashing to the ground. Maybe it’s just being two years old and growing.
Right before dinner tonight, things got a little…well, hairy. One minute the kids are all happily playing with blocks and trains in the living room, the next – armageddon. Or arsenic hour. Take your pick, it wasn’t fun. I dashed in to bring peace, but Plum had lost it, so I scooped him up, removed him from the siblings, and together we had a little chat in the kitchen about friendly behavior. I’m not sure that he was at all convinced by my reasoning, but he liked being held and maybe that was good enough. We agreed that a piggyback ride might help, and so out came the wrap and up went the toddler. And not only did I get the dinner prep finished, I got through a large chunk of the dishes, too, with Plum cosily tied to my back, happily running his fingers through my now-short-again hair.
In the midst of a changing world, let’s hold to love however we can.
Love is the strong message in the Gospel lectionary this week. A scribe asks Jesus which commandment is the first of all? To which he replies you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Mark 12:28-34
The first part is a calling and it is complete. God calls us into love. Into a complete love that holds all that we are. In these days of remembering our pilgrimage, the Spouse and I have been talking about pilgrim poetry and that has led me back to Rilke’s Book of Hours which shines light here. Rilke writes of personal depth that is God’s love in each of our lives.
You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
to the ship as a coastline, to the shore as a ship.
Nothing comes before this love. It is our life itself at its inner core. Personal and achingly real.
But it is the last part of Christ’s answer that needs learning, isn’t it? How do we love each other enough? From two-year-old tantrums to sitting through committee meetings, we are consistently learning and relearning to recognise and embody love to our neighbours and to ourselves.
It can be hard because things change so quickly. The self is a thing in motion. Our children teach us that. With small ones around the house, we are constantly responding to change. We celebrate it. We meet their challenges (more or less). We buy new shoes. We hold them close and let them wriggle out of our laps, eager to find their own way of being. And we try do it all with love.
We also know change in ourselves. In fickleness, perhaps, but also growth. Daily, we shift and develop. We develop new ways of being. We are renewed. With grace, in the midst of all changes, we learn to love ourselves.
Love requires space. When we set rigid limits, we leave bits out and we fail to see what is happening in front of our eyes. We treat our children as behaviour problems to solve rather than as fellow pilgrims to cherish. To love ourselves and others, we need to make space for changes to happen. We need to let the story unfold.